Half a year ago I found all four volumes of Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order on the  shelves of the Ashland Public Library. On Luminous Grounds is a site created, in part, out of simple admiration for that author and his ideas. It’s name comes from the fourth volume, The Luminous Ground.

I first leafed through Alexander’s early classics, A Pattern Language (1977) and The Timeless Way of Building (1979), in college, passed to me through the hands of a friend.  The beauty of the books struck me, though I didn’t spend much time with them.  Nonetheless, when I found a used copy of A Pattern Language in a Seattle bookstore a few years ago I picked it up without hesitation, as if it were meant for me.

Photo of floor designed by Christopher Alexander from the picture gallery of patternlanguage.com - click image to visit.

A Pattern Language appeals to a love of places full of life, where everything just seems to fit.  It’s about creating those places where, as kids, we felt like a real-life adventure waited around every corner, and each alcove promised a fantastic solitude. It’s about building those places where, as adults, we feel comfortable, relaxed, even invigorated, more awake to every aspect of our days, places where it is hard not to stay alive to a sense of gratitude for our whole life as we go about it.

How could a person not be glad to read from a book like that?

But not until picking up The Nature of Order did I ever have the idea, beyond all childhood nostalgia and romantic dreams, that the very stuff of our lives itself might be so much more than just “what is at hand” (ie. inert matter, dependent on us to make it into something we could call our own).  The idea that matter, that space itself, participates almost “actively” in the creative processes of all of life (not just biological life, but the life we sense in a mountain, in the Milky Way, in the ceramic bowl) I had never imagined. Not as a real possibility.  Not as a valid and testable theory. Yet the claim Alexander is making is that we can recognize the characteristics of this life that surrounds us, and even measure its degrees of success in different circumstances, in order to participate more fully in the process ourselves.

On Luminous Grounds will then, I hope, be a site for the appraisal of created life and creative living as it appears in our daily lives, here, on this earth — in ideas, in art, in craftsmanship, in buildings, in nature, in cities, in gardens, in ourselves and in each other. And always, in the end, it will be a site for praising the gift they are. In essence that’s it.

In a more specific sense, it will be a kind of wandering exploration of Alexander’s ideas. I will inevitably and even frequently dip into the thoughts of others who I admire as well, to question or draw connections, or just to really wander off for a few hundred words into what seems to be completely different territory…

I hope to use a lot of space giving examples, from my own life and the lives of friends (and other notables), which I understand as our attempts at bringing a greater measure of wholeness and life to the stuff our days are made of.

I intend to post once a week.

Please enjoy!


Mike van Eerden, April 2010


One Response to “About…”

  1. Bob said

    beautiful website, wonderful writing, great themes and ideas. Kirsten Giebutowski sent me here, glad she did.


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